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Kosovo agrees to normalise ties with Israel

Move comes as part of Trump-led agreement between Kosovo and Serbia to establish economic relations

Muslim-majority Kosovo agreed to recognise Israel as part of a US-brokered accord on Friday, a deal that will also see the Eastern European country normalise economic ties with erstwhile rival Serbia.

The agreement, which was hailed by US President Donald Trump as "a major breakthrough," follows two days of meeting between US officials, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo's Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti.

According to a statement released by the White House, Serbia is "committed to opening a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and moving its embassy there in July".

Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy there in May 2018, a move that was criticised by the Palestinians and much of the international community.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.

Friday's announcement comes in the wake of a controversial normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and a regional tour by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to lobby other Arab countries to follow suit. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement and said that he would renew efforts "so that more European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem".

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Trump called Netanyahu during his meeting with Kosovo's prime minister and congratulated the two leaders.

Following the call, Netanyahu said Kosovo would be the "first country with a Muslim majority to open an embassy in Jerusalem".

"As I have said in recent days, the circle of peace and recognition of Israel is widening, and other nations are expected to join it."

Haaretz said Netanyahu also thanked the Serbian president for the "decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel".

"We will proceed with efforts so that other European nations move their embassies to Jerusalem," he was quoted as saying.

Serbia is set to become the first European country to open its embassy in Jerusalem. 

Israel has yet to recognise Kosovo's independence, but, according to Haaretz: "Israel has been in talks in recent years with Kosovo about opening an office for economic interests in Tel Aviv to advance investment and trade with the Balkan state."

Serbian President Aleksander Vucic told reporters there were still many differences between Serbia and the breakaway province, but that the agreement marked a huge step forward.

Kosovo's prime minister said the agreement should lead to mutual recognition between the two countries.

Ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a Nato-led bombing campaign to curtail ethnic warfare.

Serbia, backed by its large Slavic and Orthodox Christian ally Russia, does not recognise Kosovo's independence, a precondition for Belgrade's future membership in the European Union.

Source: Middle East Eye